For many people occasion worth celebration brings up thoughts about fancy ball and glasses of fine sparkling champagne. Why people like fizzy drinks? All of the bubbles make it seem like the drink is created for a celebration. But why carbonation is so special?
What makes fizzy drinks so fizzy?
From a chemical point of view, sparkling water is nothing more than a weak carbonic acid. It is made by dissolving carbon dioxide (also known as CO2), which is one of the greenhouse gasses by the way, in some water. Some of CO2 actually reacts with water to make carbonic acid. This process occurs naturally in nature but in a minuscule amount that is not distinguishable by humans.
In order to speed up this process and make acid concentration high enough to be appreciated by average consumer manufacturers dissolve CO2 into water under high pressure. This moves the equilibrium of the reaction to the “sparkling” side and makes the fizzy drink that people like. To preserve this weak acid, the drink is packed under high pressure.
Escaping CO2 makes hissing sound once you open the bottle and pressure is dropped. Under low pressure, reaction reverses and carbonic acid splits into water and CO2 once again. CO2 escaping from the solution forms bubbles that everybody likes so much. This is why fizzy drinks tend to go flat after some time since opening.
People like fizzy drinks since prehistoric times
Although sparkling water has been only since William Brownrigg invented it early 1740s humans have enjoyed carbonated drinks much earlier. As far as we know, people like fizzy drinks since the invention of primitive beer which happened about ten thousand years ago.
You see, when yeast converts sugar and other carbohydrates into ethanol, which our ancestors used to get drunk on, it also creates CO2. Most of this CO2 escapes to the atmosphere, but some dissolve into the drink itself making it naturally fizzy.
However, there is no research suggesting that people who like fizzy drinks have a higher risk of becoming alcoholics. Therefore, humans probably like sparkling drinks for some other reason, not because they are subconsciously hoping to get some alcohol.
A few more speculations
A group of scientists from Philadelphia based Monell Chemical Senses Center came to a couple of discoveries. They have found out that firstly, sparkling water quenches thirst better than regular water. That means you need to drink less carbonated water for it to have the same effect as a regular one. Secondly, fizzy water appears a bit cooler than it really is, to it appeals to a thirsty person much better than regular water. However, they were not able to explain how or why this happens.
As speaking about beer, cider, and champagne, it has been discovered that bubbles of carbon dioxide tend to push alcohol into the bloodstream, which effectively makes a person drunk faster.
Nonetheless, humans are only mammalian animals that like carbonated drinks. “We tried to get mice to drink carbonated water–and they don’t. They don’t like it,” states Nicholas Ryba, a senior investigator at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. According to scientists, it indicates that there is a lack of any chemical reaction that would make mammals like sparkling water. This raises the suspicion that animals do not like the smell of CO2 as it may indicate that food or other stuff emitting these gasses is rotten or poisonous.
So why do people like fizzy drinks after all?
There actually is a not so crazy theory and our scientist Ryba tends to agree on it. An analogy for carbonated beverages could be spicy foods. In 1997 a psychologist called Paul Rozin published a paper stating that spicy foods could be an example of humans “enjoy situations in which their bodies warn them of danger but they know they are really okay.” Similar effects could be observed for the consumption of sparkling water. It tingles a little bit, but we like it.
Nobody knows for sure what is the real reason why people like fizzy drinks. However, it feels good and does not have any negative side effects, so let’s just enjoy it.